This is a special guest blog post by our Executive Director, Alanna Hendren.
I felt like a real reporter the other day when I received a “brown envelope” in the mail with no return address or identifying material inside. Whoever sent it had taken some time to analyze a recent report published about Community Living BC’s (CLBC) Customized Employment Initiative and was outraged over the high costs of finding work for individuals who had been placed in customized employment. He or she had calculated the cost to be over $58,000 per placement.
He or she was relatively correct in his or her facts and I could understand the disappointment over the high costs for CLBC’s customized employment placements. However, DDA’s employment placement costs are zero to government or CLBC for the 46 people who would otherwise be clients but now work at Starworks Packaging Assembly for minimum wage or better. Starworks, is a social enterprise of the DDA’s that hires people with developmental disabilities to perform light manual labour work at competitive prices.
Jobs West on the other hand, is DDA’s work placement program that costs about $6,700 per person. This cost includes discovery, employment readiness training, work experience, volunteering, and work placement. Over the past two years, 36 people successfully got jobs with community employers. DDA also operates a pre-employment skills training program for 6 people that is consistent with the objectives of the Customized Employment Initiative. This costs DDA $60,000 per year but the funding does not come from the government or CLBC – we earn it.
With the downturn in the economy and anticipated budget cuts looming, one would assume governments will not have the money much longer to spend on projects that have high costs and minimum benefits or returns. At that time they may start rewarding agencies who provide the best services for the lowest amount of funding, but that has not been the case over the past decade or so. Very soon we will also have to accept that government no longer provides enough funding to adequately address community need in any area because they really will have no money. This reality is most grim for Vancouver, because our region has been historically under-funded in favor of other regions.
If agencies view themselves as servants to the community – as charities – they will step up and find ways to support as many people as possible through creating efficiencies or investing in social enterprises. If agencies continue to view themselves as servants to the government, community support will remain as political and limited as declining government funding will allow.
Message to brown envelope person: Next time, have the courage to sign your name!